Featured News Opinion OPINION | Singapore's Valentine’s Day “present”, forgotten old HDB estates and other...

OPINION | Singapore’s Valentine’s Day “present”, forgotten old HDB estates and other stories in review

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"While progress is absolutely necessary, balance is key." — Ghui, OPINION

Netizens have responded (some angrily, others cheekily) to a video featuring Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong announcing that he would deliver the budget on the 14th of February and that it would be his “Valentine’s Day present to all of you.”

While Mr Wong was probably trying to be humorous, the word “present” is particularly loaded. Most would interpret receiving a present as a positive thing. However, given the upcoming Goods & Services Tax (GST) hikes, many are sceptical. One netizen wrote, “Yes…of course (you) can celebrate after the confirmed 2% GST hike…No wonder so happy.” Others speculated about potential Government one-off cash handouts.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) led Government frequently gives one-off cash handouts to citizens who feel happy about this. However, is this considered a gift? If we take a step back and think, do we not realise that these handouts are funded by the state coffers?

As one Netizen said: “I borrow $5000 from my girlfriend. During Valentine’s Day, I will give her $50 as a Valentine’s gift,” said one. “Trying hard to act cute,” said another. “(You) increased the GST, now (you) want to give a chicken wing.”

In other words, if you have money for handouts, why are you increasing the GST right now at a time when there are rising costs of living? Or, more colloquially, “give with one hand, take back with the other”.

Commentators have previously noted that the PAP Government was fond of using cash handouts at specific times to boost its popularity. While this cannot be conclusively proven, the timing of such handouts has prompted such suspicions. This begs the question, should state monies be used to boost the popularity of one political party?

Further, does Mr Wong realise that he needs to woo Singaporeans actively now? Is that why he uses Valentine’s Day as the pretext for so-called presents? That said, does this method of wooing still hold water?

Also, are Singaporeans wising up to this ruse? Are they starting to realise that such handouts are not actually “presents” as they were already paid for by the taxpayer?

Money has always been a sweetener for Singapore, and in land and resource-scarce Singapore, I guess that isn’t surprising. Singapore is probably one of the few countries where a dead body cannot remain buried forever, and cemeteries are periodically dug up for redevelopment.

People will undoubtedly remember Bidadari cemetery, which now has a housing estate. It has even been announced that the Bidadari cemetery will have its own hawker centre in the second half of 2023! While progress is a good thing, and digging up a cemetery is less disruptive for the living than destroying forests for housing, one does wonder if we, as a country, sometimes forget about maintaining the old.

Workers’ Party member of parliament (MP) Louis Chua reminded Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 10) that we sometimes forget the old when he raised the issue of “forgotten neighbourhoods” which are “underserved”.

Many residents have often shared with me and my fellow Sengkang MPs about the lack of coffee shops and everyday conveniences in their neighbourhood. Within my Rivervale division, for example, while it is great that Rivervale Plaza and Rivervale Mall provide various retail offerings for those living in the immediate vicinity, there is only one coffee shop and one convenience store in the entire division.”

So, while a new estate like Bidadari will be getting its own hawker centre, how about more mature estates with only one coffee shop?

The Sengkang Group Representative Constituency MP used his own childhood memories to illustrate the point saying that Ang Mo Kio, where he grew up, was “the unassuming neighbourhood centre had almost everything that we needed.”

At the heart of our public housing estates are our heartland retailers and hawker centres, which play an integral role in our lives throughout one’s life stages”

While progress is absolutely necessary, balance is key. To what extent have we got the balance of maintaining the old while embracing the future right?


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